‘Walker Room’ named in honour of ‘an exceptional educationist’

Published 04 October 2011

billwalkerA former Professor at the University of New England who is remembered for his good fellowship as well as for his academic eminence and professional achievements has had a common room at the University named in his honour.

“Bill Walker, who had a ‘wicked’ sense of humour, stimulated all the gatherings he attended,” said his former UNE colleague Professor Ross Thomas at a function to celebrate the dedication of the W.G. Walker Room in UNE’s Education Building. “So a common room is a most appropriate room to be named after him.”

Arriving in Armidale in 1959, William George (Bill) Walker worked as a Lecturer in Education at the Teachers’ College and UNE, and rose to the position of Senior Lecturer at UNE in 1962 and Associate Professor in 1966 before his appointment as Professor of Education in 1967. In 1969 he became Foundation Dean of UNE’s new Faculty of Education – “after converting a Department into a Faculty in just two years,” as Dr Thomas said. He was Professor of Education at UNE until 1979, and retained his affiliation with UNE as Emeritus Professor when – in 1980 – he moved to the Australian Management College at Mt Eliza, Victoria, as the College’s Chief Executive and Principal. He died in 1991 at the age of 62.

Professor Walker, who was Head of the Centre for Administrative Studies at UNE from 1974 to 1978 and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Educational Administration, is acknowledged as the founder of the study of educational administration in Australia. “He was an exceptional educationist,” Professor Thomas said. And those exceptional achievements were recognised in 1979 when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Many friends and former colleagues of Professor Walker attended the dedication function last month – including Dr Neville Webb (his schoolfellow in the early 1940s, now President of the Armidale branch of the UNE Alumni Association), Dr Bruce Cole (who trained with him at Balmain Teachers’ College in 1946/47 and who became – with Professor Walker’s encouragement – a subsequent Dean of UNE’s Faculty of Education), and Margaret Peters (his secretary/personal assistant).

Mrs Peters said she remembered Professor Walker as a man who had been “always in overdrive”, but whose infectious energy had been “always accompanied by good humour”. She recalled the Faculty of Education, where she worked with Professor Thomas as well as with Professor Walker, as having had “a vibrant atmosphere”.

In officially dedicating the W.G. Walker Room, the Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Jim Barber, remarked on the new challenges for higher-education administrators that had arisen since Bill Walker’s time – particularly in regard to the funding environment. “I’ve been pondering what Bill would have made of that,” he said. “I’m sure he would have had something wise to say.”

Professor Barber also paid tribute to the efforts of Professor Thomas and another long-term member of the Education staff at UNE – John Harris – in working towards the dedication of the W.G. Walker Room.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Bill Walker displayed here hangs in the W.G. Walker Room.